Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe has called for the toughest possible sentences to be given to offenders who weaponise Covid-19 against police officers.
His comments come as new figures gathered by the Press Association for 24 forces across the four nations of the UK show 849 officers have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic.
And spit and cough attacks against officers by thugs who claim to have Covid-19 also increased.
Steve said: “For this type of offence to have gone up shows you some of the vile individuals we have to deal with. It’s a small but toxic element who are carrying out these attacks but it can have a huge effect on our colleagues.
“The psychological impact of worrying whether you’ve contracted this horrible virus can be huge with officers also anxious about taking it home to loved ones.”
“This is why we’re calling on the criminal justice system to ensure that the toughest possible sentences are handed down to those who attack emergency services workers.”
Meanwhile, national chair John Apter said that a campaign by the Federation for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided to police officers, staff and volunteers has helped to limit the numbers of officers contracting coronavirus.
John said: “By the very nature of policing, officers will always be in close contact with a large amount of people during their shifts. It’s inevitable some officers will catch the virus, although we would rather this not be the case.
“However, if it weren’t for the Federation campaigning so hard for PPE, this figure would be considerably higher.”
Members are asked to wear masks, particularly when social distancing is not an option, to wash hands and wipe down equipment before and after use.
Officers are also encouraged to download the test and track app to their personal phones to carry on duty and familiarise themselves with the PPE guidance leaflet which includes practical advice around stop and search procedures, handling contact with the public and the PPE needed in many routine situations.
Steve added: “The virus hasn’t gone away. We’re still living with restriction to try to prevent its spread so we should continue to play our part by wearing PPE where it’s practical to do so.”